Qantas First-Class Change Leaves A Bitter Taste: Australian Travel Roundup July 2024

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Qantas First-Class Change Leaves A Bitter Taste: Australian Travel Roundup July 2024

Image: SBS

DMARGE’s June travel update looks at Qantas and Virgin Australia inflight upgrades, new Singapore hotels, Brisbane lounge changes, and Rex’s Melbourne-Perth route entry.

Our end-of-the-month June travel update looks at improvements to the inflight food and beverage offerings on Qantas and Virgin Australia, hotel openings in Singapore, the latest shifts in the Brisbane pay-to-use lounge scene, a refurbished private jet lounge in Sydney, Rex’s arrival on the Melbourne – Perth run, and what it means for fares.

Qantas Gets On The Gin Bandwagon

Thirsty flyers in Qantas premium cabins will see an improved beverage service this winter. Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin will be the new standard gin pour in first, business, and premium economy international cabins, and Campari will also be available for the first time. Lark Classic Cask whiskey will be available in first-class cabins while domestic business also gets a boost with Starward Nova appearing on the cart.

There will also be a rotating selection of gins in the first-class cabin and lounges, including Applewood, Brookies, Beachtree Quokka Gin, and the Australian Distilling Co Bondi Gin. Covid-era Double Bay hamburger slinger and Qantas Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service Neil Perry said his team tasted almost 400 drinks before settling on the final selection. Tough gig.

Image: Four Pillars

Virgin Australia Overhauls Inflight Menu

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has also overhauled its inflight menu, again primarily focusing on its small business class cabin. Virgin has made something of an art form of tarting up relatively inexpensive food, which is fine, but the menu badly needed a refresh. Business class passengers can expect now offerings like frittata with crumbled feta, pumpkin and tomato relish; sweet pork belly with rice and vegetables; and mango coconut cake.

Down the back of the plane, where the vibe is often Jetstaresque, some badly needed substantive food options are added to the pay-to-consume menu, including ham and cheese sourdough toasties, chicken and sun-dried tomato pesto wraps, and chicken salad sourdough sandwiches.

Singapore Hotel Openings In 2024

Exploring the new drinks selection might be just the thing on your next Qantas flight to Singapore with several new hotels already open or soon to open this year. Citadines Science Park has opened in Queenstown near the NUS. Granted, it’s not the most glamorous part of Singapore, but plenty of business goes on nearby. A lot more bougie, the Standard is opening across the road from the Shangri La later this year, and the Raffles Sentosa, Singapore’s first villa-only resort, is set for a soft opening later in 2024. 

The new Standard hotel is quite a thing to behold. Image: Standard

The QT Singapore (formerly the So Singapore) is set to open in September, while the Grand Hyatt aims to open its doors towards the end of this year or early 2025 in what it says will be a “phased opening.” Singapore isn’t short of good hotels, and these openings add to the mix.

Brisbane’s Lounge Shuffle

The lounge reshuffle in Brisbane continues, with news emerging over June that Escape Lounges will open their first Australian lounge later this year in the recently vacated Plaza Premium space in Brisbane’s international terminal. Meanwhile, Plaza Premium, who abruptly decamped in late May, has since said they will return shortly, taking over the also recently vacated Aspire lounge space at some point this year. The upshot is that Brisbane should have two pay-to-play lounges back in action by the end of the year.

ExecuJet’s New Sydney Lounge

If mass market lounges aren’t your thing, private jet operators ExecuJet have recently had Coco Republic Interior Design in to refurbish the lounge at their Sydney base. “The space now boasts contemporary elements such as muted grey occasional chairs, tan leather sofas, and suede accent stools, all thoughtfully arranged around a central stone bar,” ExecuJet says.

It’s nice… but does it give Private Jet vibes? Image: AIN Online

“With an expanded seating capacity and an enhanced refreshment selection, ExecuJet Sydney ensures that every guest enjoys the utmost comfort and luxury from the moment they arrive.” DMARGE recently gave readers a heads-up on heavily discounted empty-leg private jets flights. Lounges like this, particularly among the larger business jet operators, are part of the package.

Rex Shakes Up Melbourne – Perth Run

Finally, Rex’s entry onto the Melbourne – Perth route has sparked something of a price war – good for consumers, bad for the operators. Both majors on the route, Qantas and Virgin Australia, have long made hay by charging big fares on one of the world’s most profitable routes. Rex has shaken that up. The airline is presently offering one-way introductory fares of AUD149.

Typically, Virgin Australia is matching or slightly undercutting Rex’s fares on their evening flight which leaves around the same time. Qantas usually charges a premium of around AUD70 for their evening flights west. Rex also has a business class cabin (and a small lounge in Melbourne), which it prices at around AUD1,000 each way. Virgin matches this, more or less, while Qantas charges around AUD750 more – that’s a big premium for a few complimentary boutique gins in their lounges.